By ADAM J. SPECTOR
Over the past several years, the number of emotional support animals on countless college campuses across the country have increased substantially. While not everyone agrees as to whether or not this is a major issue, most students and employees do agree that there is an increasingly large number of emotional support animals.
“There’s been an overwhelming amount of dogs on campus in the past few years,” Luis Herrera, the assistant dean for the School Communication said. “I have seen an increased amount of dogs on campus… More than I have in the past.”
According to Aaron Pikula, a senior academic adviser at the School of Communication who recently began work at UM at the beginning of the fall 2018 academic semester,says there are more dogs on the University of Miami’s campus than his previous school, FIU.
“I see more dogs at UM than FIU even though FIU’s undergraduate population is four times the size of UM’s,” Pikula said.
Landon Mediavilla, 21, a UM student and owner of a trained therapy dog, estimated that there was at least one student with an emotional support animal in every single psychology class he took prior to this semester.
During this semester, a new set of ‘Pets on Campus’ policies were implemented at UM.The Camner Center for Academic Resources was unable to comment on the matter and did not provide any statistics, however, Student Affairs Vice President,Patricia Whitely confirmed that the school has seem a continued increase in there quest for Emotional support animals.
and strict documentation is needed,” Whitely said. “You simply cannot just bring an emotional support animal onto campus without approval,”
The Camner Center’s website stated that emotional support animals or “assistance animals” are no longer allowed into all facilities including, including offices and classrooms. Approved service animals are still allowed to accompany the owner as long as the pet is kept on a leash, wears proper identification, and does not pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others.
“We have to navigate the requests and we obviously can’t approve large animals that would be disruptive to the roommate or the learning atmosphere,” Whitely said.
Emotional support animals are considered assistance animals, which are often confused with service animals. An assistance animal an animal that performs a task or provides assistance such as emotional support for a person with disability per the Fair Housing Act that does not require any special training. On the other hand, a service animal is a dog that has been trained to do work on perform a specific task force person with a disability, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
While the University of Miami has in fact made new policies to counter the increase in the number of emotional support animal requests, many students still make these requests and some even admit to not truly needing them.
According to Katie Simon, a UM transfer student, the sign-up process was very easy and as simple as looking up how to get an emotional support animal online, then ask adoctor to write a letter for her.
Noel Barreda, a UM student, admits he initially made his request to register his dogas an emotional support in order to bring his dog to his apartment.
“My apartment complex’s policy is that you couldn’t have a dog unless they were an emotional support or registered service dog,” Barreda said. So when I got my puppy on Christmas, I, decided to register her as an emotional support dog, on Americanservicedogs.com. And so you just sign up and pay around $250 for the actual documentation for your service or emotional support dog,”
Although Barreda admits to not needing an emotional support animal, he believes it’s okay to take your dog everywhere if it’s well trained
“I don’t see what the problem with people registering their dog and also a psychologist evaluates you. So, if they really don’t think that you need it all, they’ll say you don’t need it,” Barreda said.“I feel like you should be responsible and have your dog trained. I had very few problems my puppy was trained. She was she never made a sound. Even though she wasn’t really a service dog, she was still certified and would behave like one.”
This leads to the question as to how UM’s emotional support animal policies compare to other colleges.
Shannon Stack, 19, and Simon are both recent transfer students and found that their colleges had a higher than expected number of dogs on campus at both schools.However, Stack and Simon were unable to confirm whether or not the animals were actually considered emotional support or service animals.
According to J.C. Dominguez, a receptionist at Florida International University’s Disability Support Center, FIU does not allow emotional support animals inside of any buildings on campus other than the students’ dorms and this policy has been in place for a long time.
“You’d need to have documentation that would be from a doctor stating the physician’s diagnosis the plan and what the animal does for you on letterhead from the doctor,” Dominguez said. “And then you bring it in here and make an appointment to meet with the consultant that would direct you about the ESA for him only works if it was only allowed is if you’re living on campus.”
Dominguez believes that it is unnecessary to speculate as to whether or not students actually need emotional support animals if they provide the necessary paperwork.
“Every student does have their own situations they’re going through and if they get documentation to support it, then there’s a need for it,” Dominguez said.“Every student that has been approved was approved because their documentation was adequate enough to be deemed as an emotional support animal. There are students there are students that we just denied because there’s no documentation.
Alex Cowan, a student at Florida State University, mentioned that he had seen a much more notable increase of dogs on airplanes than on the FSU campus and said that his brother registered his dog as an emotional support animal to take on a plane for free.
“My opinion is that if you need an emotional support animal, then you should be allowed to have one that’s off the table,” Cowan said. “But I don’t think that people should be bringing them everywhere around campus and on planes and things like that. I think there are more people using it as a reason to bring their animals everywhere, they go for free.
“Of my close friends, one of them has an emotional support dog and I believe her reasoning. The dog was legitimate and the spread of service to her”
Barreda believes the increase of emotional support animal requests is not a serious issue as long is it helps the person and thinks that current policies are strict enough.
“I wanted a puppy because I was lonely here in Florida. I didn’t have really have any friends or family nearby, so my dog really did make a difference,” Barreda said. “Also, a psychologist evaluates you, so if they really don’t think that you need it all, they’ll say you don’t need it.
On the other hand, Mediavilla believes that the increase of emotional support animal requests is a problem because he thinks that most people now distrust all people with service and emotional support dogs that actually need them.
“It’s a mainstream trend nowadays to bypass restrictions on where animals can go,” Mediavilla said. “But it’s making it more difficult for people who actually needed the dogs like guide dogs and hearing dogs.”